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New automated warehousing system for surgical instruments uses Festo electric drives

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A fully automated sterile warehouse for surgical instruments has been set up in a Copenhagen hospital to process the instruments for the operating theatre.

Festo  electric drives and Clean Design components ensure that everything runs reliably and smoothly.

With more than sixty operations to carry out every day, the surgical teams at the Copenhagen hospital are under pressure to ensure everything runs smoothly. Precision and timing are crucial, especially in finding the correct surgical instrument within seconds. Every basket of instruments requires costly sterile warehousing, which until now involved a significant amount of effort on the part of hospital personnel.

The hospital’s IT specialists recognised that getting the surgical instruments ready for the operating theatre involved a great deal of time and money while there was no guarantee of accuracy as the packages sometimes contained incorrect instruments.

The hospital decided to set up an automated warehouse management system for cleaning and picking surgical instruments. Danish automation specialist Gibotech installed the system in just 10 days, according to Lars Vinge, production manager.

The processes of the storage system were kept as simple as possible to ensure that investment and maintenance costs remained manageable. Personnel manually load wire baskets with surgical instruments, which are cleaned in sterile washing machines. The baskets are lined with hygienic crepe paper, which is not damaged during the sterilisation process in the autoclaves. The instruments are then assembled into operation-specific instrument packages, depending on requirements for surgeries scheduled for the next day. The wire baskets are then consigned to the storage system, where they can be located with markers such as bar codes, RFID and data sheets.

Automatic handling systems use these markers to help employees find the storage locations the next day. Electric axes EGC at the heart of this handling system reliably and accurately distribute the baskets to the rack system’s 1,900 storage locations. Wherever the surgical instruments might come into close proximity with system components, Clean Design pneumatic components from the CRDSNU range are used, which are certified in accordance with Cleanroom Class 8. Valve terminals CPX/MPA are installed in a decentralised fashion and connected to Rockwell controllers via Ethernet/IP.

Gibotech project manager Vinge points out that the pneumatic and electric drives from Festo haven’t faced any problems in spite of the very pure and dry atmosphere within the system. Against a planned system availability of 97%, the warehousing system is able to achieve a peak value of 98.5%.

Key benefits of the automated warehousing system for surgical instruments:

  • Eliminates the need for hospital personnel to manually handle heavy baskets of surgical instruments
  • Saves labour costs amounting to 10 man-years and frees up resources for use elsewhere
  • Fully automated sterile warehouse has 1,900 storage locations and 1,800 baskets, all equipped with RFID labels
  • System handles up to 100 transactions a day
  • Each basket has a processing time of five to ten minutes
 

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